Convertible Car Roof Care & Maintenance

Updated July 20, 2017

There's nothing quite like a top down cruise, and only a convertible offers such a feeling of freedom on the open road. Your ragtop does require a little extra maintenance, but it's easy to do yourself, and your efforts will be rewarded every time you lower the top and take a spin.

Operating the Top

Familiarise yourself with the vehicle owner's manual, especially the specific recommendations on operating and maintaining the soft top. It's important to properly lower and raise the top, and unless your owner's manual specifies differently, you should follow these steps:

  1. Lower the side windows.
  2. Release the mechanism that secures the top to the windshield frame.
  3. Unzip the clear plastic rear window if your vehicle has one and store it properly. Glass rear windows can be left in place.
  4. Lower the top and check to make sure it is fully retracted.

When it's time to raise the top, follow the same steps in reverse order.

You should never lower the top when it is wet, or when the temperature is below 4.44 degrees C.

Types of Top Material

Convertible tops are made of two main materials, either water resistant canvas or vinyl. If you're not sure, consult your owner's manual or dealer. Always use products that are made specifically for the material from which your top is made. Routine cleaning is basically the same for both types of materials.

Cleaning Your Top

You should wash the top at the same time you wash the rest of the vehicle, at least once a month. Use a good quality car wash solution, and never use strong detergents or harsh chemicals. You can use a soft scrub brush on heavily soiled areas, but reserve the brush for use only on the top. After rinsing, use a chamois to remove excess water and then let the top air dry.

Canvas Top Maintenance

Canvas tops are treated to repel water, but they are not waterproof like vinyl tops. Over time, a canvas top will begin to lose its water-resistant properties. When water no longer beads up on the top, it's time to treat it again. Two highly recommended products are available for this: Raggtopp Fabric Top Protectant® or 303 High Tech Fabric Guard®. Follow the product directions carefully.

Vinyl Top Maintenance

Unlike canvas tops, vinyl convertible tops don't need to be retreated to remain waterproof. However, they should be treated every 2 or 3 months with a good quality vinyl protectant like Ragg Topp Vinyl Protectant® or 303 Aerospace Protectant®. This will help protect the top from fading and cracking due to harmful UV rays and keep it free of mould and mildew. Always follow the application directions carefully.

Vinyl Window Care

Many convertibles are equipped with clear vinyl rear windows, and these need special care. Vinyl windows are easily scratched, and also are susceptible to yellowing over time. Two excellent products that are made especially for vinyl window care are Wolfgang Plastik Surface Sealant® or Diamondite Plasti-Care®. Apply as directed to clean your car's vinyl windows and help prevent yellowing.

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About the Author

Richard Blackmon is a freelance writer and photographer with over 40 years experience. His articles have been published in Fire Engineering, Amateur Chef, Laboratory Medicine, Car Model, and Car Modeler magazines. He won a national competition for safety feature articles in high school and attended the University of New Orleans.